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Hip-hop, Tejas

Latinos take on rap music and make it their own

It's a lot like cable channel Mun2 (pronounced "moon-dose"), a Miami-based MTV-like channel that broadcasts mostly black and a few Latin hip-hop videos, all hosted by Spanglish-speaking Latino VJs. And Arias is right that the Hispanic kids like it. Since going on the air in 2001, and getting a new, amped-up signal in March of last year, the Party's ratings have tripled. Currently it's the No. 6 station in Houston, and its ratings have yet to go down.


I'm SPM you know my name / I'm the one that came about the dope game / I've paid my dues and kept my cool / I'm the one that told your kid to stay in school / I'm from the streets thank god for rap / I creep through my hood in the smoke gray 'llac… -- South Park Mexican, "You Know My Name"

Chingo Bling: "We go about it a lot differently than the 
Californians."
Daniel Kramer
Chingo Bling: "We go about it a lot differently than the Californians."
H-Town Slim wonders where the line is between 
Houston's blacks and Mexicans.
Daniel Kramer
H-Town Slim wonders where the line is between Houston's blacks and Mexicans.

Even though he didn't make any CDs, Al Pacino's portrayal of Tony Montana in Scarface looms as large for hip-hop as Peter Fonda's portrayal of Captain America in Easy Rider did for hippie rockers, likely more so. Scarface is the starkest, most cynical telling of the American dream possible and a cautionary tale of how the means always gets you in the end, but every poor kid who watches it thinks of how they would have done things differently, how they would have stayed on top of the game.

And whether by emulation or mere coincidence, the rap game is not much different from the dope game. It's hard as hell to get to the top and harder still to stay there. It's all about getting as much as you can as fast as you can and fighting like hell to keep it. There are people who will rip you off at every turn and a few out there who would kill you in return for an insult.

The mob as portrayed in the movies -- be it Scarface's Cuban variety or the Italian one -- is hip-hop's guiding force. Houston's Latin rappers take up names like Juan Gotti and Lucky Luciano.

So a case can be made for Tony Montana's being as influential on rap as Grandmaster Flash, L.L. Cool J or Run-DMC. (A recent documentary included in the DVD edition of Scarface also makes this case.) There's Houston's Scarface, the elder statesman of Dirty South rap, and the breakthrough album of his former group the Geto Boys was positively encrusted with sound bites from the movie. Just as surely as you'll find a copy of the good book on a preacher's mantel, on every hip-hop-based episode of Cribs, you're sure to see a deluxe DVD edition of the flick in the entertainment center. And since Tony Montana was a Cuban immigrant, he has become something like the first and still the most influential Latin rapper, in terms of style if not grooves.

Just as Carlos Coy, a.k.a. South Park Mexican, was Houston's most important and influential real Latin rapper. SPM's rise and fall mirrored that of Montana so closely it seems almost intentional. Like Montana, Coy started from scratch, hustling in the streets. Coy claims to have dealt drugs and had a few brushes with death while in the dope game, just like Tony Montana. And like Montana, Coy had the strong work ethic and talent it took to found and run an empire. And as with Montana, the kingdom Coy created was undone by his personal demons -- both had sexual perversions that led directly to their undoing.

Unlike Montana, though, Coy can't be said to have gone down with guns blazing. His downfall -- a conviction on charges of sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl -- could hardly be seen as the sort that brought any street cred. Tupac and Biggie went out like gangstas, just like Tony Montana. Coy went out like a dirty old man.

Many of Pac's fans believe he faked his death. Similarly, many of Coy's fans refuse to believe in his guilt. "I thought he didn't do it," says one fan. "But I was afraid to tell people I thought he didn't do it, because lots of people thought he did. The 14-, 15-year-olds, yeah, I could see him doing that," he adds, referring to the other young girls who took the stand and said they had had sex with Coy. "Some girls that age look 18 or 19. But a nine-year-old? That sounds like a setup."

"One day you've got the entire world going for you and the next day you're behind bars," says another fan. "And for something stupid -- it wasn't like a drug charge. It's very embarrassing to have a sexual assault charge of a nine-year-old."

"He had so many local kids looking up to him," says the first fan.

And yet Coy's influence can still be felt on the scene. After all, it was SPM who first brought native Californian Baby Bash to town, and this year Bash's "Suga Suga" became the biggest non-Beyoncé/Destiny's Child hit out of Houston since Coy's day. And it's likely the connections that Coy made with suits at his former label, Universal Records, helped Bash get his deal with that company. What's more, he showed thousands of local Hispanic kids a whole new realm of possibility.

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